Saturday, May 17, 2008

Keeping Sellers in the dark

(Originally posted on August 8, 2007)

Walking the walk

In the world of Real Estate, there are two views - the buyers' and the sellers'. As a Realtor, I have to shift my way of thinking depending on who I'm representing. Here we are in the early days of August, and the media is going crazy with all the woes surrounding us. We've got mortgage lenders going belly up, housing sales plummeting nationwide and new home builders under investigation for questionable lending practices in the heyday of 2004 and 2005.

My focus today is how difficult it is to be a seller. As I've said, professionally I represent both, but personally, I am in the hot seat as a seller. My home has been on the market since the end of May. Like every other seller, if you don't absolutely have to sell, your price will reflect your lack of determination. Yes, our price was padded, but hey, we were in no rush.

Give us 10 minutes to get ready

The less access you give to show your home, the longer it will stay on the market. Since we have two dogs that have free run of the house, we need to be here for any showings. That's a problem. Why? Because the Realtor has to make an appointment with you, which means getting a hold of you, or playing phone tag, and if it's complicated for them, it ain't gonna work.

We try to make it easy. Our house is always ready to show. I mean always. Beds made, tables clean, floors vacuumed or mopped, dishes away, laundry done -- it's a lot of work. If someone calls, we can show the home in 10 minutes, and I always answer my phone. Always. The problem is, even though the listing says that, Realtors don't believe it. Hey, this is an issue we can't overcome. If someone wants to see our house, they will make arrangements.

Price, price, price

As the days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into months, you realize all by yourself, this is a price-driven market. So our price has come down. Once, twice, three times. We are now $50,000 less than when we began. Not only that, we increased the Realtor commission to 5%, and guess what? The phone is ringing, ringing, ringing. We have showings, we have appointments, but still no buyer.

Insider information

The beauty of selling my own home (as a Realtor, not as a "For Sale by Owner - FSBO") is that I keep in constant communication with my seller. You're laughing, but it's true. I know exactly what I'm doing to sell the home at all times. The good news for MY listings, is that I do the exact same thing. I can only imagine how crazy someone would go, if they were left in the dark. You know, your mind starts to play tricks on you when you don't hear from someone. "Are they dead? Are they cheating on me? Don't they love me anymore? My neighbor's house sold and mine didn't! What's wrong with my house? Why am I being rejected? What are these buyers saying about my house to their Realtor?" Makes sense, doesn't it?

FSBOs, Expireds and Withdrawns

I completely understand the frustration that sellers go through, and know why they pull their listings or refuse to re-list or think they can do better. If their Realtor doesn't communicate, then everyone loses. When I meet with an expired listing or a "For Sale by Owner", it usually starts out the same - with anger. The message is clear, too. It's not about the money (price) - it's about time. Everyone wants to sell their home NOW. If I meet them as an expired or FSBO, at least six months has gone by. Time is not on their side, and now we're playing catch up. The good news for me, is that they've experienced the pain, and they're more willing to listen to me and follow my counsel. I'm almost positive their first Realtor told them the same thing, but that was six months ago and time was on their side.

Better, friendlier, faster

It is because of this frustration that I'm so passionate about keeping sellers informed. Is it difficult? No. Is it time-consuming? Yes. Does it cost a few bucks? You betcha. Here's what I do, in a nutshell. I didn't reinvent the wheel, I just practice what I preach.

First of all, I email my sellers every Sunday. I inform them of all the things I've done in the past week for their home, and who has seen the home. Twice a month, I give a breakdown of the Las Vegas market and with third party information, show exactly what has been selling, in each price category and area of town. If I feel the price needs to be adjusted, I will ask for a reduction, and why I feel it's necessary.

I market my listings in so many different ways, it's important to show my sellers exactly what I have in place to promote their home. Most importantly, I utilize a feedback service. When a Realtor shows your home, I send an email questionnaire to them. They answer six simple questions regarding the price of the home, its condition, whether their buyer was interested in seeing it again or making an offer. There is also an open space to enter any comments they wish. This email is then sent back to me AND the seller. How powerful is that? Instant gratification!

This is a tremendous service, and I don't understand why every Realtor doesn't offer it to their sellers. There are multiple benefits - if the home is overpriced, has a challenging condition or there is some hidden objection - the Realtor tells you quickly and painlessly. Best of all, no one is in the dark, and it helps make the sale of the home quicker.

Internet versus Telephone

I'll be the first to admit, I prefer email over telephone. Why? 1 - Accessible 24 hours a day, I can always write to you. 2 - You've got a written record of our communication. 3 - No phone tag. 4 - More privacy - less chances of me calling at a bad time. 5 - Easier to convey complex details.

This isn't to say I don't call my sellers, on the contrary. Anything that requires immediate attention, good or bad, I'm right on the phone. Bottom line, if we need to talk, we will.

Only the best for you

Using myself as a guinea pig, I know what it's like to have a home that isn't selling. Believe me, there's no good reason, I've done it all. Does that mean I'm not a good Realtor - absolutely not. But it is a challenging market, and it's a great opportunity to see just what works. I continue to test new marketing techniques on my listing, so that I can get yours sold quicker, too. I'll keep you posted on when we're moving!

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